The Harbinger Online

Governor proposes educational cuts

This school year has been full of reductions at East.  Four teaching positions, 10 percent of the supply budget, 25 percent of the library budget, and some administrative and paraprofessional work hours—all these things have been lost due to budget cuts, but there are still more cuts to come.

On Jan. 13, Governor Sam Brownback presented his budget plan for Kansas schools. In his State of the State Address, Brownback stated that education was his second priority, after economic recovery.

Despite Brownback’s focus on education, he acknowledged in the address that funds will be tight in the coming years, and cuts will be required. His proposal will bring cuts of the base state aid per pupil (BSAPP) by $75 this year and $157 for the 2011-2012 school year or fiscal year (FY) 2012. BSAPP is a set amount of funding allotted by legislators each year for each full-time student in Kansas.  According to the Kansas Department of Education, Kansas’s BSAPP increased a small amount in the middle of the decade, but in the past two years has been reduced due to economic stress in the state. This year Kansas faces a $50 million, deficit and legislators have been forced to make cuts in most state departments.

The Shawnee Mission School District calculates that this proposal would result a state funds cut of $2.6 million for this year and $5.7 million for 2011-2012. In addition, the district will have a cut of $4.5 million in federal funds in the 2011-2012 school year.

Principal Karl Krawitz was not surprised by the cuts stated in the Governor’s proposal, given the financial situation of the state. Dr. Krawitz explained that since education funding makes up 51 percent of the state’s budget, it is only logical that cuts would be made in education.

Still, Dr. Krawitz is concerned about the changes these cuts may bring to East in the 2011-2012 school year, as well as the following year.

In the upcoming school year, Dr. Krawitz predicts that East will lose more teachers and as a result of those losses have to increase core class sizes to 33 to 35 students. He said that the increase in class size will clearly be hard for students, but it will also be a challenge for teachers—bigger classes will mean more grading, and less time to devote to each student.

“I don’t think that anybody can realistically think they’re going to grade the 150th paper in a class the same way they graded the first paper,” Dr. Krawitz said.

For 2012-2013, Dr. Krawitz foresees core class sizes at East rising to between 38 to 40 students on average. He explained that with the additional reduction of $157 BSAPP, even bigger changes will have to be made across the state. Although he doesn’t have specific programs in mind, Dr. Krawitz worries that the budget situation may be dire enough to cut funds from some programs.

“The district has cut what people might say is taking a piece of meat and cutting off the excess fat and making it leaner,” Dr. Krawitz said. “ In 2012 and 2013, there will not be any fat to cut, so then we’re cutting into the heart of what is truly the school district’s tradition of excellence.”

On Jan. 31, the Appropriations Committee of Kansas House of Representatives proposed additional cuts to programs in the Kansas Department of Education in House Bill 2014. Pre-K Now and Parents as Teachers (PaT) face reductions in HB 2014.

Pre-K Now is a state-funded program designed to provide early childhood education for low-income children. Albert Wat, National Project Manager of Pre-K Now has studied the cuts facing the program in Kansas.

“High-quality pre-k can’t be considered a luxury reserved for upper income families or a public-assistance program for the disadvantaged,” Wat said. “Based on what we now know about children’s brain development during the crucial early years, pre-k is just as necessary as kindergarten or first grade.”

Parents as Teachers is an organization funded by the state that works with school districts to set up programs to get parents actively involved in their children’s early education. With these cuts, Kansas PaT will likely have to close programs, as was the case in Missouri, when their funding was cut earlier this year.

The state’s budget for the next two upcoming fiscal years

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